A man covers his face with his hand.

Experts warn of pandemic fatigue ahead of the end-of-year holidays.

Credit: Brain James

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are hitting record highs across the nation, and Georgia is back in the red zone along with 41 other states, according to Download this pdf file.the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report .

That means there are 101 or more new cases per 100,000 population, ranking Georgia as 40th in the nation. Fulton, Gwinnett and DeKalb counties had the most cases over the last three weeks, representing 23.8% of the new cases in Georgia.

“The silent community spread that precedes and continues throughout surges can only be identified and interrupted through proactive and increased testing and surveillance, as universities have done with frequent (weekly) required testing,” the report states.

Experts agree we are seeing a second wave of coronavirus infections that are now widespread as opposed to regionally focused.

“When they’re regionally focused like that, it’s possible to send in reinforcements of supplies and personnel,” Dr. Amber Schmidtke wrote. “When the surge is taking place nationwide, it might mean that we’re all on our own more so than in previous surges. So, we are really not in a good spot as a nation right now.”

Additionally, the state is low on personal protective gear or PPE, and an average of more than 95% of hospitals reported either new confirmed or new suspected COVID patients each day between Oct. 31 and Nov. 6.

The number of new cases reported daily is increasing, reinforcing the need for Georgians to continue to wear masks in public, practice social distancing, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, avoid large gatherings and get a flu shot, the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a news release.

Georgia along with the nation is in a second wave of coronavirus infections, and the length of the pandemic continues to affect people's mental health.  

Dr. Dale Peeples, a psychiatrist with the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University, said many people throughout the state are experiencing pandemic fatigue and he’s seen clients reporting more anxiety coming from social isolation.

“So, even though there might be a little bit less talk about it, I think you do see that people still are experiencing similar levels of stress and anxiety,” he said.  

Use of technology and applications such as FaceTime and Zoom can help people experience eye contact that resembles in-person conversation, Peeples said.

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Choosing to use Zoom instead of gathering for Thanksgiving is a family choice, and he is not planning to visit with any extended family, but Peeples said holidays are also especially hard on people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

“We've also got concerns about substance use,” Peeples said. “And that obviously can have a direct impact on mood and suicide. So, we want to be really careful about any problematic drinking or other substance use.”

The people most at risk for pandemic fatigue and burnout work in frontline jobs such as health care, emergency responders, police and educators, he said, but anyone can feel the stress.

“If you feel like you have a job that is putting you at direct risk, if you're a frontline worker or if you're a social worker and you haven't been able to kind of step back from all this, make sure you're paying attention to yourself,” Peeples said. “(Pay attention) to your anxiety level, being on the lookout for symptoms of depression like changes in sleep, changes in appetite, irritability, fatigue, poor concentration, loss of interest, feeling hopeless or thoughts about suicide.”

Peeples said anyone feeling the stress of the pandemic or the holidays should reach out for help via the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225, available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.